Tseng Hsin-meng (曾新孟), 93, travels to a community center in Taipei’s Wenshan District (文山) every day, joining a group of senior citizens who have made friends and found a new purpose in life by helping baby-sit young children, as well as exercising and studying together.
The group says they owe it all to Shunxing Community Development Association director-general Shan Lien-cheng (單連城), 54, who founded a learning institution, Evergreen Academy (長青學苑), four years ago in the hope of enriching and bringing meaning to the lives of senior citizens in the district.
Recounting what inspired him to found the academy, Shan said he had always thought that his 90-year-old mother was living a fulfilled life, surrounded by friends of her age, until he accidentally ran into her one early morning four years ago.
“I was taking a stroll along the riverbank when I saw my mother there, alone, exercising,” Shan said.
That incident made him think of what he could do for his mother, as well as many lonely, socially isolated elderly people living in the community.
Shan then established the academy, offering a variety of interactive activities and free lessons, such as healthcare and medication safety, to senior residents at a community center in the district.
By embodying the Chinese saying: “Honor the aged of other family as we honor our own,” Shan has put a smile back on the faces of many elderly people living in solitude, including that of his mother, who is also a member of the academy.
In an effort to reach out to more community residents, Shan founded a childcare center in the community about two years ago, employing a number of preschool teachers to tutor and design activities for children.
He also adopted the multi-employment promotion program initiated by the Council of Labor Affairs to assist single mothers and economically disadvantaged women in getting back into the job market.
Not one to rest on his achievements, Shan said he hoped to carry on his dream of building a harmonious community for the elderly, children and women.